The Gift of Failure: Fostering Intrinsic Motivation and Resilience in Kids

>> Well, good afternooneverybody, thanks for coming today I appreciate it. I appreciateeveryone’s patience today. One of the thingsI wanted to mention that really resonated withme was the following quote, “Failure from small mistakes to huge miscalculations isa necessary and critical part of our children’s development.” These words reallyresonated well with me at the time when I first read them, because it was alsoabout the time we were going through our own growth mindset effort hereat the company, and I was dealing withthe terrible teens and my own kids at home.And so trying to beable to figure out when should I letmy son miss the bus, how many times shouldI let him miss the bus, and then what do weneed to do to really make sure that he’sgoing to grow up to be a successful child anda successful adult. Our speakers today, her book really helped me andmy wife in this effort. I’d like to welcomeeducator, writer, and speaker,Jessica Lahey today. As an English writer,English and writing teacher, a columnist forthe New York Times, and correspondedwith The Atlantic, which I have a subscription, I recommend youall should as well. She’s also author ofthe best-selling book, The Gift of Failure. How the best parents learn and let go so theirchildren can succeed. I’m hopeful that I canbe one of those parents in some lifetime at this point, but I’d like to introduce Jess, and welcome hereat Microsoft today. >> Thank you so much. Thank you so so muchfor coming today, I understand there’scompeting talks today, so I really really appreciate the attendance andtoday I’m going to be getting into some of the details of sort of how I endedup here and my work, but one of the things youshould keep in mind is that my son Finnegan, ifyou’ve read my book, my son Fin is sort ofa centerpiece of the book, and he is here today.So and he’s happy to answerquestions occasionally. So he’s also actingas my assistant today. So anyway why I’m here, so I have beena teacher for 20 years, I’ve taught every gradefrom six to 12th grade, I was a Latin and Englishand writing teacher, and currently I’man English teacher in an in-patient drug and alcoholrehab for kids in Vermont. So my work is actually heading more in the directionof addiction prevention. That’s whatmy next book is about, preventing addictionin adolescence by starting whenthey’re very very small, and so that’s whatI’m really excited, to sort of segue intothose conversations. But what this bookreally has been about for me is so after20 years of teaching, I think when I first started, and by the way I neverintended to be a teacher.I thought I was going tobe a juvenile attorney. I went to law school and studied Education law and Juvenile law, I was going to workin Juvenile court, and then I was askedto go teach a class, and I came home that first day and my husband tookone look at me and he said “Are you even goingto finish law school?” Because it was soobvious that I was completely sunk as a teacher, as that was whatI was going to be, and that’s what I’vebeen ever since.So I finished law school but I went straight into teaching, and have been doing thatmy entire adult career. And most of my career actually, my heart lies withmiddle school. Because middle school wasthis incredible place where my job is to watch kidsscrew up all day long, and I get to especially where I’ve most recentlytaught middle school, it was really really small, our school area, our classroomsand our locker room, so my office was sort of right outside oneof the locker rooms, and so I would hearthese kids out there talking, and I would go out thereand mill about with them, and I’d say somethinglike “So sweetie, today is the sixth dayyou’ve forgotten everything. So what are you going todo, what are we going to do, how can I help you come upwith a strategy for day seven, what’s your plan for day seven?” And we get to talking about some possible ways touse this plan book, how he’s using it now, if he’s even usinghis plan book by the way, what we can do differently, maybe for day seven.And what started to happenmore and more often, was we get into this great learningopportunity and he was listening and I was helping him through the things he tried and things that hadn’t worked, and let’s try this instead, and then all of a suddenabout 10 years ago, what started to happen wasthe door would open and the parent would runthrough the door with like “Here’s yourhomework, here it is.” And the kid would say”Well, that’s my strategy, I mean why do I need to come up with anything elsebecause all I have to do is text my parents and they’ll bringit to me at school”. And from my perspectivethat was frustrating. And that sort ofwas the beginning of what I also started to notice as a real divide betweenteachers and parents.When I first startedteaching I sort of thought, “It’s going to be beautiful,it’s going to be me, and the parents, and the kids, and it’s going to beall about the education, and we’ll braideach other’s hair, and talk about the learning.” And that’s not wherewe are right now, especially in really highanxiety, high pressure schools. Increasingly we havethis adversarial relationship between parents and teachers, which as a teacherthat just doesn’t work, because there’s plentyof research to show that the better the relationshipbetween home and school, the more productivethe kid can be, the better informedthe parents feel, and the better the kid does.So, creating a schism between home and school benefits no one. And so then I wasconcerned about that, and then I became acquaintedwith Dan Pink’s work. Obviously it’s out therein terms of his TedTalk, and his book Drive, and knew that a lotof the things we were doing to get kids to engage, whether that’s behaviorallyor with their schoolwork, things like sticker charts, and things like money forgrades and stuff like that, I knew from reading Dan Pink’s work and the work of someone else that I’lltalk about in a minute, that that doesn’t work.That it feels like it works because it worksin the short-term, but over the long-term we undermine kidsmotivation to learn. So that sort ofreally well-trod territory and I’ll go intothe research in a second, but what was evenmore concerning was that I was starting tofeel, and I wasn’t sure, this is pre-writing the bookand doing all the research, that not only were weundermining kids motivation, we were underminingtheir actual ability to learn. That when we intervene, when we run through the doorwith their homework, when we offer money for grades, when we use stickercharts for kids, when we rely on the grade itself as the rewardas I’ll get into, that what we actuallydo is make it so that our kids are less able to learn, they are less teachable, and that was devastating. I had a student whowrote a paper for me explaining thather obsession with being perfect had madeher so obsessed with her grades and her scores and looking good in front of me, and looking good in frontof her classmates that she had lostinterest in learning.It was no longerabout that for her. She was so obsessed withthe points and the grades that learning wasnow as she said, beside the point whichagain devastating for me, because I taughther for three years. I was her advisor,and at the time, hold your hats here, because at the timeI was teaching Latin and English and writing. Sixth grade, Latin.Seventh grade, Latin. Eighth grade, Latin. Seventh grade, writing.Eighth grade, writing. Seventh grade, English,and eighth grade English, all at the same timeand I was her advisor. So there were dayswhere I had her for three classes andan advisory period, so I knew her really well.And this is a girlwho had come into my classroom in sixth grade just so excited tolearn, she couldn’t wait. “Mrs. Lahey, Mrs. Lahey, what are we goingto learn today?” And now she’s telling me in eighth grade that she nolonger cares about learning. So, somewhere alongthe way we screwed her up, we did that to her. Between and first of course, from my very high horseas a teacher, I was like “Her parentshave done that to her, it’s not me, I’m fantastic.But her parents are screwingup my ability to teach her in the way this is me and my noble profession andeducation and learning, and they, you people arescrewing it up for me.” Unfortunately, then I hadthese children of my own, I have one who’s a freshmanin college right now, and Finnegan, Fin whois in eighth grade, thank you I saw that look, and at the time I realized as angry as I wanted to be at you people forscrewing this up for me, I was doing the exact same thingto my own children.Fin, believe me,there are lots and lots of stories thatI’m not allowed to tell, but the authorized onesI am allowed to tell, and one of the authorizedstories is about the day I found outthat when he was nine, that Fin didn’t know howto tie his own shoes. I found out because he hadn’tbeen attending PE class because he had been wearinghis brothers boots to school, which wouldn’t be that bigof a deal except for the fact that his brother isfive years older than him, so they weren’treally boots so much, as they were like leg castsbecause they went over, and he couldn’t bend his knee. And so he couldn’t doPE and so he came on the same day actuallythat I got that essay from the student about the fact that she no longer caredabout learning. I was trying toget to the bottom of this sneaker situation, where are thesneakers, why aren’t you wearing thesneakers to school, and I came to find out that the only sneakers he had access to were his sneakers with laces, and he wouldn’t wearthose because he didn’t know how totie them and he had been too ashamed to tell me, and he’d been too ashamedto tell anyone else, and so I had to come to terms with the fact thatI had done that.Your kid is little, and they first getmanual dexterity and tying shoes is hard so you sit down you think”This is going to be great.” Totally Instagram worthy right? You’re going to work on the shoes and he’sgoing to learn how to tie his shoes and everyone’sgoing to be so proud, except it’s really stressful, and it’s really hard, some kids get manual dexteritylater than others, and getting the laces justright is really really hard. And so that first day Ididn’t want to see him frustrated so I did it forhim. But just that one time. Except the next day we were in a rush and it’s faster if I do it and so I did it thatday but just that one time.And now, I’m in a situation when I first started lookingat writing this book, he’s nine and he’s so humiliatedabout the fact that he can’t tie his own shoesthat he’s just avoiding it by wearingboots all the time. So that’s where I was.As pissed off as I wanted to be at you people, I had to realizeI am you people. So, off the high horse, I came and I started researching how theseextrinsic motivators, motivators that come fromoutside of us like grades and points and scores and money and rewards andall that kind of stuff, how that underminesmotivation and how that underminestheir ability to learn.And luckily, I’m alsoan education journalist and so I was writing for theAtlantic and the New York Times, I published an articleat the Atlantic on a research studythat was looking at how over parenting kids affects their trajectory in school and that sort of startedthis whole deep dive for me. Okay, so let’s startat the beginning. Dan Pink, TedTalk, Drive based a lot of his work onanother book by Edward Deci. And by the way, if you go to jessicalahey.comunder speaking, there’s a big button that says download speakingbibliography and it has every bookI’m going to mention, every YouTube video, every resource that I might eventouch on is all there. So just jessicalahe.combig button downloads speaking bibliography underspeaking. Okay, Dan Pink. So Dan Pink baseda lot of his work, the early work on Edward Deci, Why We do What we do, The Science of Self-motivation. Edward Deci found along the way what we have cometo realize is there’s 40 years ofreally great research on the effects ofextrinsic motivators.Not only 40 years of really good research,there’s metadata, there’s studies ofthat 40 years of research to showone really clear thing, that when we lure peoplewhen we give people extrinsic motivators inorder to get them to learn, we undermine theirinterest in learning. From my perspectiveas a teacher, it means if youwant your child to not want to learn math over the long-termthe fastest best way to sort of kill that off is to pay them fortheir math grades.What’s really interestingabout this research though is there’salso research showing that when we offer extrinsic motivators toget kids to do stuff, we also mess withtheir creativity. So, that’s a problem because as a teacher,from my perspective, education should bea long-term creative endeavor and if we’re screwingaround with it, from my perspective as with grades I mean thoseare the tools I have and then fromthe home perspective with money for grades and that kind of thing, we’rein big trouble. The creativity stuff isreally interesting when you try to control an artist’soutput or offer them rewards, offer them trophies or money or whateverfor their output, it turns out that you can create a situationwhere the artist or the child inkindergarten who’s being offered rewards forpainting in kindergarten, whether it’s adult orchild it doesn’t matter, they will spend less time on it, they will be less personally invested and the work itselfwill be less creative.It turns out there arethese creativity experts, they can look atthis and assess this. The other problem is this and I’m goingto point directly at sticker charts mainly becauseone of the questions I got originally beforeI even came here today, thank you Anthony forpassing those along, was about sticker charts. One of the problems withsticker charts is this, often we use sticker chartsin schools to shape behavior. There are a bunch of programsout there that do this, there’s class Dojo, there’ssticker charts at home, were you good at school today? If so, you get a big sticker.Schools of character, schoolsthat are really really deeply concerned withcharacter education don’t use sticker charts. Because what sticker chartsteach children to do is to be good only when peopleare watching, right? Because what isthe benefit of doing the right thingunless someone is there to give you the sticker. If we’re teaching children to only be good whensomeone is watching, that’s a problembecause schools of character one ofthe things that they do is they talk about makingsure kids know the right, making sure kids dothe right and doing the right not just with people watching but when it’sjust the right thing to do. When I talk about this stuff, I’m often reminded of admissionscounselor at Dartmouth. She’s no longer therebut when she was there she wrotethis lovely op-ed for The New York Times about who they admitted toDartmouth and why.And she talked veryspecifically about this one kid that theydecided to admit to Dartmouth because he had a letter of recommendationfrom the janitor, the one of the groundskeepers at his high school, and the groundskeeper said, “This is the kindof kid that picks up trash on campus whenno one is watching.” And this woman atDartmouth said, “That’s what we wantfor our community.” So, that sort of stuffis really important.Now, when I talk aboutextrinsic motivators, I want to clarifythere’s different kinds. There’s the kinds thatare perceived as positive like money for gradesor stuff for grades. Usually when I goaround to schools, I talk to the kids duringthe day and then I do professional developmentwith the teachers in the afternoon and then I talk to the parentsin the evening. And I do this little thingwith the kids, what I say to them is, “All teachers andstaff close your eyes.Now, raise your hand kidsif you get paid for grades.” Depending on theschool district around 15 percent or so between 15 and 20 percentraised their hands. Then I said, “Putyour hands down. Now raise your handsif you get anything in return for grade stuffin return for grades.” And it goes up a littlebit maybe like 20, 25 percent of the hands go up, depending onthe school district. And then I have themput their hands down and I make sure the teachersand the staff all have their eyes closed make them promiseand then I say, “Think about this reallycarefully before you do it but raise your handsif you really truly believe thatyour parents love you more when you perform well in school versuswhen you don’t.” In middle school, amongmiddle school kids, about 80 percent of the hands go up and among high school kids about 90 percentof the hands go up.So extrinsic motivatorscan be love. They can be usloving our kids more showing more lovewhen they’re giving us those grades that wewant from them and no I’m not an idiotI know you can’t we just react emotionallydifferently when kids are doingpoorly versus when kids are doing wellbecause we’re worried. We want our kids to do well in school but what I’mtalking about here more is giving them the idea that wereally and truly love them more when they give us those letters we want from them. There can also be negativeextrinsic motivators and when I’m talking about perception and thosecan be things like, “You are grounded if you have anything less than a Bminus average,” or, “We are going to take away your devices if you haveless than a whatever.” And then there area couple that you wouldn’t think of as extrinsicmotivators but they are. Let’s say for example, if someone couldlog onto a computer anytime they want and see their children’s grades like 10, 20, 30, 50 times aday heck just keep it up on the desktop and justhit refresh all day long.And it sounds likeI’m making a joke here and sort of using hyperbole but I’m not because from our perspective as schooladministrators and teachers, we see how many times you login. We know and we talk about you. Mainly we talk about you because we are concerned asteachers and administrators, that when you’relogging on constantly on the computer thatyou are not having, channels of communication with your child may not be ideal. Because it lookslike the parents, from my perspective anyway, the parents that logon the most tend to be the ones who don’t really have really good open channels of communicationwith their children. Now, there’s another kind of extrinsic motivator that youalso may not think about, and that’s trackingyour kids on their phones. And that’s called surveillance. As is using the portal. And I’m not saying we can’tuse any of these things, I’m just sayingthat we have to be aware of them because if their effect is to underminemotivation, and learning, as I’ll get to in a second, then we’re doingour kids a disservice, if we’re relying on those things in orderto shape their behavior.Again with extrinsic motivators, one of the things we haveto keep in mind is in the short-term they workgreat, they are fantastic. If you want to boost motivation, if you want to sort of get the kid offthe starting block, then extrinsic motivatorscan work great. If you want to offer your kid, you know a nicesparkly Paris soccer shorts for going tothat first soccer practice, then great do that. But you can’t have that beyour strategy moving forward because it will undermine their motivation andtheir investment over time. So, here’s what we do want. We want intrinsic motivation. Again I am not an idiot. I don’t think that if you just do the thingsI’m going to tell you about in a secondthat your kid will be like ‘quadratic formula, I got it.I’m so excited’. But you can up the chances that they will beengaged for the sake of the learning itselfinstead of for the sake of those numbersand points and grades. Okay. If we’re really lucky, the highest form of intrinsic motivation is this little something called flow. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyitalks about flow. It’s that state where you’re doing somethingthat’s difficult. It’s not too easy,it’s not too hard, but it’s difficult enough to really engageyour body or your mind.For me it’scross-country skiing. It’s hard for me, it’sa difficult thing, and I’m not doing it becauseI’m going to win a race. I’m never I’m going to wina race, but it’s challenging. It’s challenging tomy mind and to my body, and so time andspace falls away. For some people it’s music. You know that’s sort ofthe classic flow state is often described as like jazz, where you’re so engaged in it at the time andspace falls away. You don’t get flow when you’re beingextrinsically motivated, forced to do something forthe sake of something else. And if you think about extrinsicmotivators for a second, when I was young we used to have this thing where if we read a certain amount ofthe summer pizza, Hut would give uscoupons for pizza. Think about thatfor just a second. What’s the most valuable thingin that equation? Books or the pizza? Well the pizza is the reward.I mean if we really wanted to make books bethe valuable thing we would give kids books foreating a lot of pizza, right? Okay. Intrinsic motivation. Edward DCci talks aboutintrinsic motivation in his book and whywe do what we do, the science of self-motivation. It requires threethings. Number one. It requires autonomy, which is kind of like independence but alittle different.It has to do withcontrol over the details. Well, for those of youin the room with toddlers you know full wellyou do not say, “It’s cold, would you like to wear a hat today?”No, no, no, no. You say, “It’s cold, do you want to wearthe red hat or the blue hat?” Right? Because then you’regetting some buy-in, because they getto have a little autonomy over that decision. In the town where we live,we’re not big enough, I live in a very small townin New Hampshire, we’re not big enough tohave our own high school.So kids have school choice. And parents just why and worry and worry overthe choice because it’s, you know it’s such animportant decision, and it is. But I always comeback with, well, but if you let your kid choose then you’re automaticallygetting more buy-in, especially sincethe high schools we have to choose from are allpretty darn good. And if you get buy-infrom your kid you’re more likely to have buy-in,and that’s autonomy. Control over the details. So autonomy numberone, number two, competence which I’mso sorry to tell you parents is not the samething as confidence.Confidence we are reallygood at as parents, we’re not so good at instilling competence and I’ll comeback to that in a minute. And finally, connection. Connection when I talk to teachers doing professionaldevelopment is this I could spend 90 minutesjust talking about connection because ithas to do with relevance, and this thingcalled self-efficacy, and getting rid of learned helplessness and all this stuffthat’s really fun. If your kids have teachers that make a subject come alive ina way that makes them think, “I could go out into the world and do stuff withthis information”, then please start sendingthank-you notes because that’s really where the secretsource is with education.For parents it’sreally pretty simple, and I’ll come backto that at the end. Alright, autonomy. In the book I talk aboutthe work of Wendy Grownek. She does researchon the way how we parent affectskids motivation in learning. And one of the cool experimentsshe did was this. She had mother infant pairs, and I’m sorry dads it just happened to be mothersin this experiment.Mother infant pairscame to her lab, and she designed a task for the kids that wasengaging and exciting, something they would want to do, but something that was alittle bit hard for them. She wanted it to bechallenging on purpose. Because she reallywas interested not whether ornot the kid could, you know how they did the task, but how they reactedwhen they got frustrated. And the instructions shegave the parents were really quite generic on purpose.Be there with your childwhile they complete this task. Because she wanted that tobe open to interpretation. Some of the parents were there while the childcompleted the task. They let the child have control over howthe task was completed. If the kid got frustrated, they were thereto be supportive, they were what’s calledautonomy supportive. They were there and supportiveof the child’s autonomy, but they didn’t take over. And those were referred to again as autonomy supportive parents. And then some ofthe other parents, and I’m sure we don’tknow any of these, were all over the task. They told the kid how todo it, and where to do it, in what order to do the steps, and laid out the stepsvery clearly. First do this, then do this. And by the way that behavior was amplified when shetold the parents that their child’s workwould be evaluated by other parents afterthe experiment.That went throughthe roof. So these parents over here were called directive. Wendy also usesthe word controlling, but I’ll stick with directive because I mightpiss you off more later and so I’mgoing to stick with the nice words now, directive. Autonomy, supportive, directive. Here’s where itgets interesting. Then she has the childrencome back with the parents. This time she separatesthe mothers from the children, and gives the childrenanother task that’s engaging, exciting, something they want to do but again a littlebit frustrating. The children of the autonomy supportive parents gotexcited about the task, and engaged in the task, and got started, and got going, and got frustrated, but were able to kindof take a breath, look at it another way, think about theinstructions again, and sort of finish.Almost all of themfinished the task. The children of the directiveor controlling parents, they got into the task gotexcited about the task, got frustrated, and almostall of them cried and gave up. They were missingwhatever emotional wherewithal they needed in order tosort of stick with it, and be okay withbeing frustrated. Being okay with beingfrustrated sort of is at the heart ofthis whole equation. Because kids whocan’t be frustrated, and we all know whatthese kids look like, right? You take them totheir first gymnastics class and they can’t do a cartwheel perfectly and they’relike, “Oh no, that’s it. Forget it. I’ll neverbe able to do it ever.” And that’s really hard to get past and I’ll talk a little bit aboutthat before we’re done, and how to get over that. But when you can’t befrustrated there’s a lot of learning thatcan’t happen too.And the way that thesedirective parents are, you know, feeding the kid information and saying okay first dothis, second do this, and not wanting to seeour kids get frustrated, that is so natural. I hate seeing my kidsget frustrated. I hate seeing my studentsget frustrated. I have the answers. It would be so greatif I just gave them the information and then no one has to befrustrated ever, and frankly it makes melook like a better teacher. Because now my students aregetting the right answer, whether or not theyreally understand the information very well, that’s a whole other question. Why do I care so much? Well, when kids arereally, really little, a kid who cries and gives up, and can’t stick with something, that’s frustrating as a parent, but eventually they’regoing to end up in my classroom, or a classroom. And this is wherethe rubber really hits the road becausewhat ends up happening is, kids who can’t be frustratedcan’t learn as well.I would always ratherhave a perfectly average, and I use the wordperfectly on purpose, a perfectly average childof average intelligence. I would much ratherhave a kid that’s of average intelligence butwho can be frustrated, than a kid who is brilliantbeyond measure but gives up the second they feel like they maybe can’tdo something right. Because that kid who can be frustrated is moreteachable, and here’s why. One of the mostpowerful teaching tools I have as a teacher, there are two I talkabout frequently. One of them I talk aboutmostly with teachers, but the one I talkedabout with parents is this one calleddesirable difficulties. There’s a fantastic book that it’s on the bibliographythat came out a couple of years ago calledMake It Stick from Harvard University Press,three authors.They talk about desirabledifficulties in this book because it’s so powerful. Here’s what desirabledifficulties can do. If I give all of youa paragraph about jellyfish and half of you have a paragraphthat’s easy to read. The text is really clear, the words you don’t haveto look them up it’s all in languageyou can understand. And half of you have a piece of paper that’s difficult to read. Maybe some ofthe letters are reversed, maybe some of the words are more difficult then youhave to look them up but essentially the informationis the same and I say in five minutes I’mgoing to give you a quiz on this paragraphon jellyfish. You people overhere who have the difficult to readpiece of paper, you are going to slaythem on the quiz in the short-term andthen in the long-term if you all come back and take this quiz again in two weeks, you’re really going tokill them on the quiz.Because what your brainhas done when you had to work a little bitharder to get information in, your brain said, “Oh this is not short-termmemory stuff.” Short-term memory stuff is like the numberfor the pizza guy. Something that you cankeep in your head for a second but then it’sfine, it can go away. When you have to worka little bit harder to get the informationin your head, your brain says, “Oh No No.This is long-term memory stuff.” Clearly this is important. This is morechallenging it causes the brain automaticallyto do this thing called encoding where it takes the information moves it from short-term to long-term memory. Short-term memory is not a place where we can manipulateinformation very well and it’sdefinitely not a place where we store stuff long-term. So if we want kids to do”oh I don’t know” Know information wellenough to be able to apply it in a novel situation, it needs to be in long-term it can’t just be sittingin short-term and what you people didover here to learn about the jellyfish was you crammed. You heard you hadfive minutes to learn it all, and so you just shovedit in your head. Maybe those of you who brought highlighters withyou, you highlighted. Please let’s take highlighters away from kids because all they do is highlight everythingand they say, “That’s okay. I’ll memorize all of it.” That’s cramming. Thoseof us who have done any amount of cramming in our lives know it does not work.It definitely doesn’twork over the short-term, it really doesn’t workover the long-term. Those of us who cram we tryto shove it all in there, stick a cork inour ear and then walk this way to the task so itdoesn’t all dribble out. Some fun information whenI get to talk to kids, I talk to them a lot about sleep and theimportance of sleep because I can’t overestimatethe importance of sleep. One of the pieces of informationI give them is there are studies that have shownthat if you have one hour, you know the are kidslike, “Oh one more hour.I’ll turn the lightsoff in one more hour. Just want to doone more hour of studying.” And you’re like oh my kid isso diligent and fantastic. What you can tell your child is, one extra hour of sleep is more powerful because of thememory consolidation, than one more hour of studying. So please when I tell kids how much sleepthey’re supposed to be getting they just laugh me. Teenagers are supposedto still be getting around nine and ahalf hours of sleep at night and they’regetting nowhere near that. A lot of kids are getting somewhere closerto six and a half. And in terms oflearning it’s sleep. Sleep is one of the mostimportant things we can do.So, tell your kid if theysay “I want one more hour.” Say “Look I learned fromthis woman Miss Lei She’s an education researcherand she found out that one more hour of sleepis more valuable than.” And that’s why the AmericanAcademy of Pediatrics came together a coupleof years ago to issue a statement sayingthat schools should open no earlier than 8.30 in the morning becausean extra hour of sleep is such a powerfulthing for teenagers. Just on a little tangent. If your teenagersay late at night, “Am just not sleepy yet.” They’re not lying,they really aren’t. Teenagers have this thingcalled sleep phase delay. Where their brainsquirts out melatonin and other chemicalsand makes them sleepy later butthe other problem is that one of the other thingsthat teenagers brains don’t do very well isperceive how tired they are. So they could beexhausted and they’re not as good as adultsare at knowing that.Which is why I have to tap on their shoulder when they’re drooling on the desk. It’s also why when schools do move their school starttimes an hour later, not only does it improvetest scores, grades, behavior, it decreasesthe number of car accidentscaused by teenagers. An hour extra of sleep is incredibly powerful thing.Really really powerful. Okay. And by the way if you get the American Academyof Pediatrics to come together and issuea policy statement on something, it’s a miracle and it reallymeans that they’re serious.So when they come outand say schools should start no earlier than8.30 for high school, this is not for younger kidsbecause they don’t have the sleep phase delay issuebut for high school. It’s important stuff. It’s really worth listening. And yes it’s incrediblydifficult to move school start times because of sports and extracurriculars. It really seems to be worth it. These school districtsthat have done it. Okay. Autonomy, stilloverhearing competence. The differencebetween competence and confidence is reallyimportant to know. Confidence isthat empty feeling of, “Yeah my parents tell meall the time how smart I am. It’s going to befine. It’ll be great.” That kid who comes toKindergarten and says, “I’m here and I’m the best reader in the class because my parents told me so.” That’s great. Optimism is fantastic. I am an optimistic person, I think it’s what keepsme from just falling down with despair over the stateof education some days. But it needs to be pairedwith experience and competence is confidencepaired with actual experience, doing something, screwing it up, figuring out what toleave behind and what to bring forward with you andtrying and doing it again.I got to work onthis really fun television show for really young kids calledthe Stinky and Dirty show, it runs on Amazon. And in that show we havethese two characters who have to get these tasks done and inevitably their firstsought of ideas about how they’re going toget these tasks done are classic likepreschooler tat like, “We’ll wait for the moon to come up and then we’llthrow a last sue over the moon and it’ll pull the bowling ballup or whatever.” And they come to findthat that’s not going to work but they don’tsay, “Well that’s it. I’m too stupid to do this.” They come up with that because they’re supportiveof each other and because they are workingtoward a common goal and because they’reresilient little creatures, littlecharacters there. A dump truck and a digger. They move forward withthe next iteration of the plan. That’s competence. In the classroomit looks like this, I give kids somethinglet’s say we’re in Latin class sorry ifI give anyone flashbacks.And I’m teaching the nominative and accusative caseand I say “Okay. Here’s the sentence Puella, Puerum, Ahmad, the girlloves the boys.” Standard word orderin Latin and they get comfortablewith that and then I go over here and I say “Okay. This one’s a little harder. Puerum, Puella, Ahmad.” And they freak out at first. They’re like “Thatmakes no sense. You’re missing the wrong place.” And then they calmdown and I say, “No you havethe skills to do this. Just be quiet for a second.” In my classroom you’renot allowed to speak for a few seconds after I present a question because that favors the extroverts to throw their hands up inthe air and they like, and they don’t know whatthey’re going to say. They have no idea. Butyou got to say that let.I know because I’m one of those. In law school I figured asmy hand was up in the air, something would fall outof my mouth that made sense and plus if Ivolunteered enough, that would mean thatmaybe I wouldn’t get called on like randomly. It totally works. But introverted kids often in the classroom needa few more moments to think. And so, that was a big discoveryI made as a teacher, is that if I stoppedcalling on kids right away, I could actually levelthe playing field a bit.So the problemwith these kids is, then they say, “Oh, I don’tknow. That’s so hard.” But then, they realize,okay, no, no, no. I did it this way over here. Mrs. Lahey has faith in me. She thinks I can do itall. I see what you did. You just reversed the two words. I get it. And then, I give them somethingeven harder. And whether that’s inthe form of homework, and I do not have time to talk about the way Ifeel about homework, I’ve written aboutit extensively at The New York Timesand The Atlantic. The research is pretty clear.I don’t have timeto talk about that. But if I give them, let’s say, homework that’s builton what we did in class, but is a little bit harder, incorporating, I don’t know, some of those desirabledifficulties in, I need the kids tobe able to stay calm and to trust that I’m not just puttingthem out there with this difficult stuff thatthey can’t possibly do. And it’s the kids who can be frustrated whocan push through. It’s the kids who feelcompetent, not just confident. The confidence game really comes out of theself-esteem movement. Total failure by the way. Self-esteem movement, what we hoped was that ifwe told our kids enough times how fantastic and wonderful and giftedand talented they are, that they would have this Star Wars force fieldof wonderfulness around them so that whenthey would go off to school and if someonesaid something mean, it would like pew andgo off to the side. But they wouldcome home with like their force field ofwonderfulness intact. It doesn’t work that way.The research on self-esteemand praise shows, there’s a studythat came out just recently, wasreally interesting. It showed that for kids whohave really low self-esteem, the kids we really need to buoy up with our words ofsupport and praise, if we tell those kids thatthey’re so smart, gifted, talented, perfect, we don’traise their self-esteem. We lower it. Because for kids like that, and I often remember myselfsitting there in Algebra one, thinking, ”Oh my gosh! I’m the only person who does not understand any of this.” And if I had gone home and my parents were telling meconstantly how gifted I was, my school reality andhome reality would not match. And that is reallydisturbing to kids. When I speak to kids, one my favorite gradesto speak to is sixth grade because theyhave the best the questions.And recently, I was ata school in New York. And this one kidraised his hand, and he said, ”Yeah. I don’t know ifit’s just me or not, but my parents tell me I amperfect at everything I do, and I just don’t thinkthat can be right.” And I said, ”It’snot just you sweetie. And as wonderful is, as I think I assume you are. It’s probably true that you’renot perfect at everything, and that’s goodbecause we shouldn’t be perfect at everythingright off the bad. That means we’re probablynot trying very hard.” So, telling kids howwonderful and perfect they are all the time canmess with their heads. Not only that,those of you who are familiar at all with Carol Dweck and her work on mindsets, if you’ve only read articles about Carol Dweck and mindsets, I would encourage youto read the whole book, because the wayjournalism intends, I hope this doesn’t comeas a shocker to anyone.But what often happens is, I go to my editor, and I say, ”I have this articleI want to write on this amazing breakthrougheducation theory, and I’m going to needlike 2,000 more words.” And she’s like,”Okay. Sounds great. You can write it, butyou get 500 words.” So we tend to oversimplifyjust because that’s how. They’re all terriblyeditors or terribly concerned that your attentionspan is about this big. So we need to prove them wrong. So I go off and Ihave to write about something in making a list,which is ridiculous. Those of you who have only read about CarolDweck’s research, what you’d probably think it means is that weshould only praise our children for their effort and never tell them thatthey’re smart, which is stupid.Because if I were to run at that door and Idon’t know that I have to press that bar right there to make the door unlatch, but I just keep running at the door and bashingmy body against it, and you keep saying, ”Oh, Jess, good effort, keep going.” You are terrible teachers. I’m not learning very much. I’m not going totrust you anymore. We’re sort of, neither oneof us is getting anywhere. But if you’resupportive in a way that a lot of teachers know works pretty wellin the classroom is, ”Oh, I see you’rehaving some problems. Stop for a second. Look at the door. Is there anything you’re not thinking of? Is there anything youhaven’t considered?” That’s what great teaching and parenting lookslike because that allows the child to have some autonomy overtheir learning and figure out, ”Oh, what am I notthinking about?” So, competence, overconfidence.One of the ways wecan do that is by praising them forthe process part, talking a lot about the process as opposed to the end product. Carol Dweck’s researchis really interesting. Here’s a quick primer. She gives a math quizto everyone. Lets say, this isa math quiz for all of you, and it’s right inyour sweet spot. It’s not going to betoo hard or too easy. To half of you, she comesback and her praise is, ”Oh sweetie, you gotan eight out of 10. You must be so smart.” And then, the otherhalf she says, ”Oh, you got eight out of 10. You must have worked so hard.” And then she gives all of the kids a slightly harder quiz. And when the results come in, the kids who had beenpraised for how smart they are do the same ora little bit worse, which it’s a harderquiz of course. The kids who’ve been praisedfor how hard they worked do the same or alittle bit better, which is interestingto me as a teacher, but not as interesting as this.Because then shesays, ”Thank you so much for beinga part of this today. Now, before you go, I have these challengequestions. They’re hard. You may not be ableto do all of them. Who want some?” The kids who were praisedfor how smart they are want nothing to do withthe challenge problems. However, the kids whowere praised for how hard they worked wantthe challenge problems. In fact, one girl inthe experiment said, ”well, of course, we wantthe challenge problems.Those are the funones. Those are the ones we have to work out.” Again, I come backto this discussion of desirable difficulties. If you people don’t wantthe challenge problems, you’re probably not stretching yourself and learning as well. So that’s interesting.But again, I’m really really interestedin how we can create learning environments thatare not conducive to cheating, that kids don’t feel likethey have to cheat in. I’m really fascinated by academic dishonesty andhow we can fix that. Here’s what I love,is then I say, Ms. Carol Dweck says, I love pretending to beCarol Dweck, she says, ”Now, before you go, if everyone could flip overtheir piece of paper, I’m going to give this quizat another school.And if you could flipover your piece of paper and write down your experience of taking this quiz andwhat your score was, that would be really helpfulfor those other kids.” You people over here whowere praised for your effort, how hard you worked,you wrote down your experience and youwrote down your quiz score. Almost 50 percent of you people who were praisedfor how smart you are, lied about your score andartificially inflated it. When I ask kids, again with those six gradersbut I’ve asked this question to kids asyoung as fourth-grade, “Why do you think the kids who were praised for being smart, don’t want thechallenge problems and lie about their scores?” And they’re like, “Well, dah, if you’ve told usthat you’re smart, we’re not goingto screw that up.We need for you tokeep believing that. We need the kids around us, our friends to keepbelieving that, and that means thateverything has to look easy, and if we take the challenge problems we’re probably going to get some wrong and you’re not going to thinkwe’re smart anymore, and if other people are going to know aboutour quizzes, well, we’re going to liea little bit and say that we gota higher score than we did”. James M. Lang, who wrote a book called Cheating Lessons about creating learning environmentswhere kids don’t need to cheat said,”It’s really clear.If you want to createa classroom full of cheaters, just keep telling themhow smart they are.” I don’t think it’squite that simple, the rest of the bookgoes on to explain how the way we assess kids right now is probablynot the best way to do it. And again, I don’thave time to talk about how I feel about grading, and how I feel aboutvarious forms of assessment, I’ve written aboutit extensively at the Atlantic and the New YorkTimes, you can go find it.And the piece ofthe Atlantic is called Why Letter GradesDeserve an F. Turns out the way we test kids doesn’t tend to workvery well for learning anyway. Okay. Autonomy,competence, connection. Again for teachers, thisall comes down to relevance, this all comes downthat teacher whose, you know sometimesthese teachers have these, you can’t put your finger on it, you don’t knowwhat exactly it is but they makelearning come alive. That teacher whocomes in and says, “I found outlast night that there was an earthquake in Peru, and so let me show yousome pictures of the bridges that fell down andthe bridges that stayed up, and let’s see what we can gather from looking at these two differentkinds of bridges.And okay, here’s some bridgesover here that fell down and oh my gosh,they’re all rectangles. And look at these bridgesover here that are arches. Those are still standing. And this is geometry class. And did you know thatthe people who built those bridges wereonce kids just like you who sat in thesegeometry classes and found out about thingslike the Roman aqueducts, where the arches are whathave kept them standing for thousands of years and whythis kind of bridge over here, is likely not to work?” And those kids notonly learn about shapes that work in geometryand why those shapes work, but what they also learn is, “Oh my gosh, I could do that. I could build bridges that will hold up whenthere’s an earthquake”. That’s called self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is an incrediblyimportant element of any education programwhich is knowing that not only do you have the ability to changeyour own life too, that the decisions you makewill make a difference. It’s why kids who are in really traumaticsituations as children, children who live in abuse, children who live with people who are drugand alcohol addicted, they learn that there’s not a lot they can do tochange their environment.They lose their sense of self-efficacy andthat’s a disaster. Not just for their livesbut for their learning. It’s one of the many reasonsthat kids who have experienced traumaat a young age, just don’t learn as well. And not only that,one of the things we know about learning is that the very fastest way to interrupt learning isto introduce stress. It’s why often at the end of these talks I’llget a question about the impact of competitionon children and learning, and I have to say that’sa very complicated question because it turns out forsome kids, it’s helpful.Competition forsome kids it’s fantastic. It can lead to better learning, can lead to higher achievement. But for some kids, it’s adisaster because you could have a kid who knows theirmultiplication tables really, really well, andthe second you say, “This is a timedworksheet”, they fall apart. It’s why Joe Bowler who wrote the book MathematicalMindsets says, the very first thingwe need to do if we really want to teach Matheffectively in this country, is stop timing worksheets because mastery andbeing able to do Math fast are not the same thing and it creates a lotof Math anxiety and that comes asa person who had for much of my life really, really horrible Math anxiety.I was told in seventh gradethat I wasn’t a Math person. So, when I went back to takealgebra one again when I was 45 because one of my friendswas teaching the class, and it was right nextto where my office was, and I told you about all that free time I had when I wasa middle school teacher. Yeah. I tossedthat one prep period and I sat in onto her class and I took algebra one at the same time my older sontook algebra one. We took it together. And Itook it with my students. And I learned thatI’m not bad at Math, Math is hard. Mathis challenging. And so, one of the things that happens in this competence, confidence area is,we have these kids, we tell them earlyon in their lives, “You were born good at Math. You’re just so great at Math.” And what happens tothese kids is that they start to believe that it’s always supposed tobe easy for them, because if it’snot easy for them, then maybe they aren’t as smart as we’retelling them they are.When I went back and retookalgebra one in my 40s, my mentor for thatwas Steven Strogatz, who’s a Math professorat Cornell. And he says, one ofthe things he says is, we got to stop telling kidsthat they’re just good at Math because Math will gethard for everyone otherwise, we wouldn’t have proofs thatwe can’t solve out there.We wouldn’t have hadFermat’s Last Theorem sitting around foras long as we did. For those kids who are told that they’rejust good at Math, they’re going to be just goodat Math for a little while, and it’s going to begoing great and they’re going to be doingreally, really well, and then it’s goingto get hard for them whether that’sin sixth grade, or tenth grade, orfreshman year of college, it just happensto a lot of kids. How they respond tothat when it does get challenging is everything. That determines how wellthey’re going to do over time. There’s a lot ofkids actually who hit that moment andjust drop it and say, “Oh, this wasall Impostor Syndrome. This was all a big mistake and I wasn’t really ever assmart as I thought I was.” So for teachers,this relevant stuff is like multilayered, and amazing.And again, if your kids have teachers that aremaking learning relevant and making kids feel like theyhave self-efficacy, oh love those teachers up. They’re just fantastic. For parents it’sreally, really simple. Connection for parentscomes down to two things. You have to lovethe child you have, not the child you wish you had. Not some fantasy ofthe child that you developed basedon all the things you wish you had done, “Oh, if I had just practiced piano, I could be so good now, so, I’m going to sit on my kidand make them practice piano.” All of those fantasies you have about who your child could be, may not be the child that’s sitting rightin front of you.And our kids know it whenwe’re not loving them, when we don’t see them. So, love the kid you havenot the kid you wish you had, and don’t just love your kidsbased on their performance. And I know, I’m like, “I would never dothat except when they come home with a test that they’re reallyexcited to show us”, they’re like, look what. Show it to us and it’san A and we flipout, and were like put it onInstagram and put it on Facebook and let’s livetweet and move, move, move.And you freak out. They’re gettingthe message that, oh here we go, I’ve given them the good stuff,the stuff they love. But then they come home alittle more sedate with the F, I’m sorry, B minus, that’swhat we call an F now, right? Yeah. Okay, with that For B minus and we show it, they show it to usand we’re silent. That silence, by the way,when I talk to kids, I make it really clearthat this parenting thing is so important to usthat we have to like, look for just the right words to say just the right thing.But ask any psychologist,that silence, that’s withdrawalof love based on performance and it’s one of the most emotionally devastating things we can do to kids. Unless you think that youwould never like I did, remember when Iask those kids how many of you believe thatyour parents love you more when you bring themthe grades and scores that they want versus the ones they don’t and you getthose 80 to 90 percent.I mean, I think it’s lower for middle schoolbecause I think middle school kids stillhave some faith in us. They’re still like oh, they’re trying to dothe right thing I can tell. And it’s the reasonalso that the heart of the gift of failure ison middle school because really that’sour moment to really allow them to make mistakes and allow them to learnfrom those mistakes. So autonomy, competenceand connection. Those are the three pieces that we need to bringtogether in some way.And I don’t want to gotoo long today and I want to leave plenty oftime for questions, but bringing that togetheris a really amazing thing. I’m so fortunate I get a lot of letters from parentsand I love all of them. And most of them say thingslike, “Oh you’re so right. I let my kid you knowput her dishes in the dishwasher andshe was so proud of herself and she’s becomingmore and more competent.” And I love thoseletters. I love them. But I love these even more, the ones that I get that says, “You know what, I gavemy kid more autonomy.” I sort of said,”You know Sweetie, I think I’ve beendoing too much for you, and I actually think you’re able to do much morethan I give you credit for.So, this is now goingto be your thing.” And usually that’s homework. Homework isa good place to start. “This is your thing now. I’m not going to bechecking the portal. I’m not going to be sitting right there withyou while you do your homework because I have faith thatthis is your thing.” And then talking really, really clearly aboutyour expectations and your consequencesaround homework. Expectations could be you know, for us was for a long timeit was just you’ll do your homework until we realize that he was doing his homework.This is Phin I’m talking about because his storyis in the book. He was doing his homework, he just wasn’t gettingthe homework into the backpack and taking thehomework out of the backpack. So, this was, you know, our expectations andour strategies had to shift. And then makingthe consequences really, really clear about whatwill happen if they’re not meeting those expectations. And by the way our consequences that we tend to come up with as adults make perfect sense to us sometimes or don’tmake any sense to kids. Kids, younger kids inparticular, their frontal lobe, our frontal lobeis the last part of our brain to fully cook. And that’s where allthe organization, the executive function,time management, organization of all that stuff, the locker and the classes, and the notebooks and keeping the pants up andtying the shoes, all that stuff happensin executive function.And executive function inour frontal lobe is not fully cooked until we’rein our early 20s. I used to say, “Yeah, you can just wait untilyour kids brain is fully baked.” And then I realized that cooked maybe worksbetter because fully baked just has the wrongconnotation about it. But waiting until their brain, sometimes there are just places in life like middleschool where we’re asking them to do way more than their brain can actuallyhandle which is, as I come back to the magic of middle schoolbecause my job is to watch kids grow upall day long and help them come up withstrategies to fix them.And anytime thosemoments are stolen, that’s really difficultfor them and for us. Autonomy, competence,connection, because that connection parthere is what can happen. When we do giveour kids more autonomy, let’s say aroundhomework, and we back off, the letters then that I get are not just my kid has becomemore competent which I love, but our relationshiphas improved. We talk about stuffthat matters not just the stuff thatI want to talk about. When I sat in recentlyon a panel of freshmen, sorry, seniors inhigh school who were giving advice to parents ofincoming freshmen. One of the parents said,”What’s the biggest, the most important pieceof advice you could give us about how to help our kids have a good first yearin high school?” And the kids said, “Stop talking to them about gradesevery minute of the day. They know grades are important.” Maybe, and in the book I talk about a possible alternative, maybe we could talk tothem about their goals. Maybe we could talk tothem about what they love, what they’re interested in.Talk to them about what their personal goals are for school as opposed to whattheir grades are that day. Because then, when you get into that stuff that’s when youget to really know your kids. You get to know the kidthat’s in front of you. The kid, your kid, not that fantasy kidyou wish you had. That’s what sort of allows kids to feel like theycan trust us to have conversations thatare a little bit difficult about maybewhere they screwed up, because they knowthat we’re not just loving them basedon performance, we’re loving them because we love them and thatwe support them.All right, I’mgoing to stop there because I could keepgoing on for hours, but I’m assumingthere are questions, I happen to know thereare some questions before I even came into this. On YouTube, I have a seriescalled Gift to Failure Facts. A frequently asked questions, answering the most commonquestions I get via email. So, they’re like how to helpkids who coast, how to help, parent perfectionist kids, what about my special needs kid, is there a differentmessage there? Should I feel stupid fortrusting the school when they told me what I reallyneed to focus on his grades and points in scores. Really, it’s called,should I feel stupid for being dupedby a flawed system. There are a lot of flaws with our education system right now and I couldn’t write a bookthat appended all of that, I had to say, “Here’swhat we’ve got right now, how do we work within that?” So, focusing for example, on goals as opposed to gradesis a great place to start, but I’m happy totake any questions.What if I told you Iknow what your questions are and hopefullyyou can ask them. Someone’s going to ask meabout musical instruments and when they are allowedto let their kid quit that’s one too. I get that one a lot. My kid has been playingsoccer since she was six and now she’s 14and she’s really really, really good but shesays she doesn’t want to play socceranymore, what should I do? Should I let her quit? That’sa question I get a lot.>> What’s the answer? What’s the answer? Honestly, certain thingswe’re talking about whether that’s musicor athletics really depends on yourpriorities as a family. Often this questionis about sports or music and so I’ll usethose two examples. In my home, we’re not, we like music but we are notan intensely musical family. A friend of mine who hasa very musical family it is a non-negotiable thattheir children will play some instrumentuntil they are 18, that’s just a non-negotiable. It’s not going any other way so for themquitting an instrument means fine what areyou going to take up next at which pointthe child says, “No, I’ve alreadybeen doing the cello for a while I guess I’lljust stick with that.” In our house, Itell a story often.My son, his older brother. Our next door neighbor had a piano that they weregetting rid of and I’m like perfect because I’ve read the research showing that ifyour kid could do music that they’re going to be betterat math and so I really need to do the music thing in themand piano that’s perfect. And so we wheeledthe piano down from their house intoour house and we got him lessons and we had the honeymoon period where it’s all great for like a week, maybe two weeks and thenit was fighting constantly. Constantly you have to practice. Here’s what youneed to practice. How are you going to practice.What do I need to do? Have you practiced yet? And it was really underminingour relationship and for me a non-negotiable isour relationship and so, and for me whether or nothe plays piano honestly, I could care lessreally and truly.So we wheeled the pianodown the street to the next suckers house andit can only go downhill and we’re on a big hill soit came down and then it went down to my friendVicky’s house and then it went downfrom their house down. But then what wasreally interesting is a couple of years later, my husband playsguitar and my older son saw my husband playingguitar and said, you know I think I mightwant to do some guitar and so he took some lessons, he learned out veryquickly that it wasn’t the piano or the guitarthat he was not enjoying, it was the lesson format. He just doesn’tlike having someone else tell him what hehas to play and when. So he doesn’t like anyone telling him whathe has to do ever. So it turns out there’splenty of ways you can learn online byyourself. There’s jam play. You pay like 100and something bucks and you get to chooseyour instructor and choose your lessons and youcan repeat them or fast forward or whatever or YouTube is another placeyou can do that.And he became a really, really good guitar player and of course I kept my handsway off of that because as soon asmy mom stink was on any aspect of the guitarplaying, it was over for him. The minute I messedwith his autonomy and his control over thislearning guitar thing, done. I was able to sort ofencourage him to you know have you listened to Eric Clapton yet? Youknow, that kind of stuff. And then what was really interesting isafter he’d been playing guitar for about a year and he really was feeling confident, he sheepishly cameto me and he said, “You know, that listserve we have in town where people use stuff, like if anyone had a keyboard I might beinterested in learning piano.” And I was able to finda keyboard on our list serve, I paid like $100for it and he taught himself piano in the same wayhe taught himself guitar.And I really believe that he’s a better musician thanhe ever would have been if I had sat there and forced him but that’spriorities in my house. Same thing with athletics. If you know, if your priorityis sports and you’re a very sports-oriented familythen you’re quitting. But then again myother responses. Childhood is supposedto be a time when we get to try lots ofdifferent things. In my house, you know the kids can takelessons in whatever they want anytime my younger sonjust took lessons in welding a couple weekends ago and nowthinks he might want to try hot and cold forging because that could bereally interesting. And luckily we have a place nearby that willteach them teens that. But if you have a kid who’s14 who every moment there is taken up withplaying soccer that they’d been playing sincethey were six and they really, really hate it, what are they not gettingan opportunity to try? We tend to think that we’ll be raising quitters if welet them quit but you can’t know if you like or don’t like something untilyou have tried it.So trying somethingand then deciding it’s not for youis not quitting. That’s knowing about yourself and going on to somethingelse that might be more fun. And often the answerI’ll get from parents is, “But we have so muchinvested in soccer.” And I just want to say, “What’s the return on thisinvestment you’re hoping for?” Like there’sa great New York Times headline a while back that said, “Your kid is not going to play professional sports, now what?” Know what your goalsare going into this and that’s one reason the sportschapter was so fun to write. There was one studyshowing that, it was a small, an informal study but of lots of kids wherethis guy said, “What’s your favorite thing about youth sports and what was your least favorite thingabout youth sports?” He asked seriousathletes about this.And they said, “My leastfavorite thing about youth sports wasthe ride home in the car with my parents after games.” Now, I don’t knowabout you, a lot of good talkinghappens in the car and the idea that that would be the worst thing aboutyouth sports gives me headaches. And their favorite thingabout youth sports was when their grandparentscame to watch them play. Because the grandparentsdon’t care what the score is.The grandparents are init to watch the kid play. One of my favoritewebsites out there about being a goodsports parent is called because that’sreally in the end for many kids what it’s all about and that’s why I getto spend a lot of time on sports podcasts and things like that.Did you have a question? >> Yeah. As someone who hasn’tread your book as of yet, that might be oneof the answers. >> Oh I should mention now, from whatever not so reason and I apologize therearen’t books here today, that was a mistake on my part, a misunderstanding but atAmazon right now it’s $4.52. I can’t get themthat cheaply so, and you can only order four. So like all of my friends order books and bringthem to my house at $4.52, so yeah st 4.52 at Amazon.>> Yeah I can confirmthe pay back is, I was about to buy two copiesbecause my question is, as Elementary School kids, and we have a science projectthat was due today and we have one parent me who just kind of steps backand watches the kid do things and thenmy wife just jumps in and starts doing things but then I’m also the one atthe end that exercises praises, oh that’s amazing, oh thisis going to be stellar, you’re so amazing, everything. Instead of like what youneed to do with your kid, what advice do you have forparents with one another? >> Okay, so, what thisreally comes down to is like there arethese big takeaways and on the bookmark my son gave youthere are some takeaways.One of the biggesttakeaways like the fastest way to switchyour thinking right now is to be thinking long-term about whatyou want for your kids. So do you wantthis science project right here to be perfect or do you want your kidnext year when the science fair rolls around to not bedoing it the night before. So real-life story Finnegan,another authorized story. Finnegan hada science fair project that he so half-asked, it wasn’t even half-asked, it was like a sliverasked and it was, it came down toa piece of trifold with some sharpie big stars andfilling up space over here, look over here,that kind of thing.And then he had togo to the science fair and sit there anddefend his project for two hours next to the girl who has the like life-sized hologram of the uni-, it’s a scaled hologramof the universe that she totally did herselfof course not. But that was an incrediblyimportant lesson. Having to sit there infront of something you created or didn’tcreate and defend it, is a really tough thingto do but it’s also an incrediblelearning experience because the next time he had to do a science project and do you know which oneI’m talking about sweetie? No, he’s listeningto headphones. Do you know which scienceproject I’m talking about that was the killerone the grays one? >> That one.>> The one with the alien? >> Yeah. >> Yeah, it was really, reallygood. So I didn’t even get to see that projectuntil it was ready to go to the sciencefair and it was so far beyond whatI thought my kid was capable of simplybecause he’s like “Well, I’m not doing what I didlast time and sitting there and being humiliatedbecause that wasn’t fun.” No, it wasn’t fun, but it was incredibly goodlearning experience. So, thinking long-terminstead of short-term, my kid can do X today, but where do I want them to be in six months, ina year, whatever? You can even think in terms of, my kids are going to go offto college when they’re 18, what do I need themto be able to do? Make a checklist. There aregreat checklists out there. My friend, Julie Lythcott-Haims, has a book called”How to Raise an Adult”.She’s got checklist. I have checklists in the book, age appropriatechecklist of what kids are actually capable of doing, that we don’t ever ask them to do because we’re like, “Well, of course, they can’t do that, that requires toomuch whatever.” Long-term insteadof short-term is the most important thing andprocess instead of product. I mean, if you come downto the fact that the doing for all goodprojects at school, really the doing ofthe project should always be far more important thanwhatever the end product is, it just so happens that kids do like creating an end product.So that’s a great way to sort of show somethingoff at the end. Focus on process over product. Focus on the parts that aredifficult for them saying, “I’m really proud of youfor sticking with that when I saw how hardthat was for you. Long division maybe a something that’sreally hard for you. And you know what,I watched you do your homework because you thought I was justcooking over here, but I was peakingevery once in a while.And I saw that numberthree just gave you fits. But you know what, you went on to four and youcame back to three, and I’m really proudof you for that.” That’s praising for effort, that’s constructivepraise for effort. But that long-termover short-term man, that not only works forour kids. It works for us. It works for all kindsof stuff because we tend to parent in emergency mode. This homework has to be perfect. The kid doesn’thave lunch today. Will she survive? Yes, she will survive. The fastest wayI tell schools if they say, “This isall well and good.” How do we send a message really, really quickly tothe entire community that we care more about the processthan the product, that we care more aboutthe whole child than the grades? I say, one of the great thingsthat schools have been doing increasingly aroundthe country is making a rule, that there’s nodropping forgotten stuff off after first bell. Not only is that sending the message that what youreally care about is that the kid learns to managetheir time and learns how to use that plan book and can cope with the consequencesof their actions, but it’s also fair ifyou think about who can afford to bringstuff to school late, it’s certainly not people who do shift work or rely onpublic transportation.So, from an equityequality perspective, it tends to bea really great thing for the school district. So that’s myrecommendation to schools, is that rule workswonders actually. It’s stepping away. It’s also what works whenother parents are going nuts, and they’re like,”Can we do cello? And we have all this tutoring, and he’s on thetraveling soccer league.” And you start to hyperventilate. I wrote an article forthe Atlantic called “Why Back-to-School Night MadeMe Feel Like a Bad Parent”. Step away, we are each other’s worst enemywhen it comes to that stuff. So, step away. Andif you have to go, I totally, totally get it. Bibliography is If you sign up on my website, there’s a newsletter withall the links to everything, plus there’s a new book discussion group guidethat has questions for each chapterand stuff like that and the bibliography andall that fun stuff.Okay, sorry. >> You talked aboutexpectations and consequences and setting realistic thingsfor your children. >> Yes.>> What kind of consequences? >> Yes.>> Is that kind of an extrinsic? >> Yeah. So that’s tough. So, often consequencestend to be extrinsic, like punishment or I’m going to take that thingaway from you. Especially the takethat thing away from you, we tend to saywe’re going to take those electronics away from you, because in our adult brain, that makes so much sense because we’re killingtwo birds with one stone. Not only will they be bummed out and not want to losetheir electronics, but if they losetheir electronics, they will have more time to work on their homework.It’s so brilliant.Except for the factthat for kids whose frontal lobes aren’t fully cooked, it makes no sense. It’s like saying, “If youcan’t build this treehouse, I’m going to send you to Mars.” Because electronics, andif you think about it, normally what we’resaying is, “So this is September orApril, August, September. If in December your grade falls, we’re going to takeaway your electronics.” And you have a kid, let’s say, middle school kid who’s focused on this homework assignment, should I really put in my all on this homework assignment? They are very bad at sayingthis homework assignment is related to this thingover here in December that’s totallyunrelated to school, my electronics,those two things don’t equate, so the closer you canmake consequences to the actual consequences that happen when a kiddoesn’t do something.So, for example, with homework, the classic in our houseanyway would be, if you don’t getyour homework in to the teacher and itbecomes a thing, like it once always happens, that’s a process of learning, then you will lead theparent-teacher-kid conference, where we talk about howwe can best help you, where we can talkabout strategy. We’re not going to lead that, you are, because you’re the one who’s forgettingyour homework. So you have to set that meeting up and you haveto make it happen. You can work behind the scenes to kindof pull some strings. So you can emailthe teacher and say, “My kid’s goingto come up to you today and ask you tomake an appointment.And if that doesn’t happen, could you let me knowor could you sort of engineer a momentwhere it might be easier for the kid to ask that?” I do that as a teacherall the time. Parents will get intouch with me and say, “She really needs to talk to you about somethingshe’s upset about. And I have a feelingshe’s not going to. So, could you kind of makean opportune moment for that? That’s really helpful for us.” By the way, those of you who help your kids with homework, homework is information for us.So, a classic in Math class, a friend of mine talksabout this all the time, that she’ll have in Algebra one, she’ll get homework back that uses trigonometry tofigure something out, and she’ll askthe kids, “So, how did you arrive at this answer?” And the kids arelike, “I don’t know, ask my dad. I don’t know.” And it’s pretty clear that the kid hasn’tbeen doing the work, and whatever, exceptfor the fact that now the teacher can’t tellwhat the kid can and can’t do.So, the more opportunitiesfor information, the better. So, consequences really should, as best you can, make them flow from whateverit was the kid didn’t do. A friend of mine, atthe end of the book, inevitably someoneasked the question of, “Well, what about real failure like failing outof school failure?” There’s a story at the endof the book about that. Someone whose son was failingout of school because he refused to sort of take command of thesituation and work.She and I talked about getting a probationary semesterfor her son. She negotiated this probationary semester beforethey kicked him out, and we got really lucky there. But then, she hadto say to her son, “You have thisprobationary semester. So you’re going to go for a couple daysto this other school, which is whereyou’ll have to go to school if you flunkout of this school.” And it was nota great choice for him. It was not a really great schoolfor him to go to. And he attendedthat other school for the day. And he came home,and he’s like, “Okay, I’m in, what do I have to do?” And she said, “Well, youshould also know that I’m not going to be completingstuff for you anymore. This is you, thisis your education, this is your decision,we need buy-in from you.” He still talksabout that moment, the kid I kept in touchwith the parent and the kid, as being the turningpoint in his life.And I get to report this because she justfound out recently, he’s going to collegenow on full scholarship. He not only took controlof his education, completely turned it around. And by the way, when a kidturns around education, that’s when we get to write the really good lettersof recommendation. The kids who have just beensort of coasting or kids who just sort of had beenperfect all along, those letters are whatever,they’re fun, fine. But the letters of kidswho really have sort of taken thatopportunity to change, who get inspired anddecide to change things, those are the letters thatget them into college. And that’s whathappened with this kid. He had more scholarships to choose from than heknew what to do with. And so, he’s goingto college for free, his dream college.And really becausehe nearly failed out, so he has a story to tellabout his transcript. He was able to say, “Look, you look at my transcript, and you think I really wasfalling apart freshman year, let me tell you that story. And let me tell you where I am now as a human beingbecause of that story.” He had to sufferthe real consequences. And if he had failedout of school, I know for a facthis mother would have taken him and puthim in that other school, and he would have hadto sink or swim there. It ended up beinga fantastic opportunity for him and maybeeven opportunity for him to realize that wasn’t what he wanted and findout if there would be a way that he could work his way back intothe other school. That’s always a possibility too.Yes. Behind you. Yeah, yeah, sorry. I have a room bythe way till 1:30 but I’m happy to stickaround and answer questions, as long as I’m notgoing anywhere. >> Okay. I totally understand as parents not wanting to becontrolled and corrected. I happened to have my oldestgoing to sixth grader. And he just really doesn’t want to work hardwhen it comes to school work. >> Right. >> He’s very bright. If that means he cannotwork hard on this assignment or not study muchfor this test and he gets a B, heis fine with that.>> Yeah. >> I’m not fine with that. >> Right. >> Because I know he putzero effort into that B, right? >> Right. >> And this isa constant argument with us, and it’s also, so whatdo you do with that kid. >> Okay, so numberone if you want a really thorough 15minute long answer, it’s at the gift of failure facts to how tomotivate kids who coast. >> Okay. >> What you alsoneed to know from a developmentalperspective is this. Until you get to middle school like sixth grade, seventh grade, eighth grade, reallythe end of fifth grade, kids are reallyfocused internally. And they’re really focused on getting your loveand approval. They’re reallyfocused on how you’re reacting to what they’re doing. Fifth grade, sixth grade,seventh grade, suddenly the world opens up.The social life opens up andhormones start to kick in, and oh my gosh peopleare looking at me, and oh my gosh for, the big joke in middle school is that all middle schoolers believed that everyone islooking at them all the time, which means that they haveto be focused on themselves, and everyone is sofocused on themselves, they are not actuallylooking at each other.So, they’re now moreoutwardly focused. And friendships tend to become more outwardly focused,and so they become, that takes front seatfor a little while and understanding thatis going to go a long way towards helpingyou understand the motivation. At least understanding whyyour kid maybe pulling back from the school stuff which maybe the year beforehe was all over that. So, understandingmotivation is really, really important becausethat helps you understand where your fulcrum point is.Where those leverscan get installed, and knowing what their goalsare is going to be really important. Youcan talk to your kid. If you happen to knowthat your kid wants to get into a certainMath class the next year, or your kid wants to goto a certain college, or your kid wants to doa certain thing for work, one of the thingslike kid says I really want to be an architect,I don’t know whatever. You can talk to themabout the fact that well, how do you plan to get there? One of the things Ido a lot as an adviser to kids is not just talk about what weretheir long-term goals are, because well that’sall well and good.Talking to them about the goals, the short-term achievablegoals they have to get through to get tothose long-term goals, that’s called self-directedexecutive function, when they can come up withthose intermediary steps to get to the biggoal out there. It can be lessthreatening to talk about these short-term goals thanthat big one out there, and it’s also more aboutprocess than product. So if you happen to knowthat your kid really wants to play soccer but you have to have a C or better to play soccer, then there’s your fulcrum point. If you happen to knowthat your kid wants to go to this high schoolas opposed to that one, but this high school is alittle bit harder to get into, then you can know well, that’s your fulcrum point.If you really want tobe over there let’s talk about your strategies forhow to make that happen. For kids who are coasting, honestly, the reaction they’regiving out of you for not, sometimes for not puttingin that extra little bit, it can also be, rememberwhen I talked about kids not wanting to fail and that’sreally scary for them.If you’re tellingthem constantly, look, we know you’re notworking up to your potential, we know you’resmarter than this, in the back of the headone of the things that kids can hear is,but what if I’m not. And so going that extra stepcan be really scary because what if I’m not as smart asother people think I am? What if my friends find out? What if my teachers find out? So focusing more on the processrather than that end product can sort ofhelp them get over that. The other thing that can help, when I go to talk to kids, you can- I talk to them about I look atthe audience and I say, if you’re coasting andyou know who you are you are not becoming smarteras fast as your classmates, because what we knowabout the brain is, if you read CarolDweck’s “Mindset”, what we know isthat the harder we push ourselves and thisgoes for adults too.The more we pushourselves outside of our comfort zone likeif I were to take, I don’t know ballroomdancing which would be a nightmare scenario for me, because I just, I’m clumsy. But I would be makingconnections in my brain. I would become less clumsy. If I am not great at Math but I pushmyself harder in Math, I’m learning more because I’m making more connectionsin our brain, that sort of the backwardswhen we tell older people to do crossword puzzles so that they don’t losethose connections with kids, the more connectionsthey make the smarter they will become, because that’s howour brains work. We’re not born withan IQ number and God forbid if you have to get your kid an IQ testfor some reason, and I actually postit that there’s no really good reasonto do that, the IQ test was neverintended to be a measure of a numerical measureof intelligence. There’s a fantastic book by Scott Barry Kaufmancalled “Ungifted “, where he talks aboutthe history of the IQ test.He tells this storythrough the lens of a person who wasSpecial Ed and now has PhD, and he works basically onthe neuroscience of creativity, and the psychologyof creativity, and what intelligence and creativity have todo with one another. For example, someone with dyslexia may scorelower on an IQ test, but how many people in this room know there’san upside to dyslexia? That there are things peoplewith dyslexia can do that people without dyslexia can’tor at least not as well? Yeah. Some of the mostamazing astronomers we’ve had in the historyof humankind have been dyslexic because they have the ability to seesort of relationships between things anddistance and time in a way that people whoare non-dyslexic don’t. There’s a great book called, “The Upside of Dyslexia.” By the way that’sall about that. Most IQ tests don’t-Most intelligence tests don’t take things like creativity into account or your individual quirksabout how you think.And so Scott Barry Kaufman is currently working totry to come up with a measure of intelligencethat encompasses things like being a people person, being creative person,thinking in a way that’s different fromyour peers think. So putting as much focuson things like that, and understanding wherethis is coming from, and also understandingthat your kid really truly believes becausewe tend to talk good game. Does your kid really truly believe that what you care about is learning or is itjust a lot of this? Because if they seeus freaking out over a low grade or going all effusive and crazyover a high grade, but what we’re saying is, oh it’s really it’s forlearning I care about, they’re more apt to follow sort of they know that whatwe really mean is this.Oh, I had a motherrecently ask me, my kids, they justwon’t read for fun. My son will not read for fun. Number one, could yougive me a list of really challenging books that hewill want to read for fun? Could you do that for me? And I was like, that’s like a magic list that if you could come upwith that would be great. And I said, well I haveto start here first, do your childrensee you read for fun? And the answer is no. She had to admit that she was, I’m so busy ba ba ba blah, and when she did read sheread on a tablet and her kids didn’t know what shewas doing on the tablet. It wasn’t clear thatshe was reading. So if you’re not reading I don’t reallyknow how I’m supposed to help you make it clear to your children thatyou think it’s an important thing to do. Then and I said, okay, well let’s get backto this magic list.What do your kids like to read? And she said, wellthey really like, this one reallylikes those Diary of a Wimpy Kid books but I threw those away becausethey’re stupid. I know. For the record, whenit comes to literacy, the ideal mix ofchallenge levels is 30 percent comfortablybelow your reading level, 30 percent atyour reading level, I should say athird, a third and a third above your reading level. This is about acquiringnew vocabulary. This is about strengthening it. This is aboutcomfort and fluency. This is about feelingconfident, competent feeling. It’s the reason whyI go back and read things like “Little Women”or “Pride and Prejudice”. It’s the reason kids loverepetitive shows because they take like “Blues Clues”always happens the same.I mean, it drives us crazybut for them it makes them so, it makes them feellike they have mastery, because they knowwhat’s coming next, and they can predict whatthe answer is going to be, and that makes themfeel like they’re smart, it makes them feellike they’re competent, it makes them feellike they’re powerful. And that’s whatreading stuff that’s below their reading level does. If your kid is in high school and every oncein a while likes to go back to those copies ofwhatever that they read in fifth grade,that’s great. That is a really productive useof their time, not, you know sweetie, I knowyou’re better than those books. What you’re sayingto them is I think, not just that I thinkwhat you love is stupid but I thinkyou’re stupid.These choices you’remaking are stupid thereby, I don’t think as much of you. So there’s like16 different things all in one answer, but honestly, focusing more on those sortof the long-term, the goals, the levers, making sure your kid knows you’reinterested in him, her. Making sure your kidknows that you really do careabout the learning, which means ifyou’re modeling that, you’re going to haveto put yourself now, and like try things thatare uncomfortable for you. They’re going to have tosee you trying some things that push you a little bitbeyond your ability level. Because we can saythat all we want, but until they see us take intellectual andemotional risks, they don’t reallybelieve that that’s something worth doing for them.That’s why it’s soimportant for teachers to admit when they don’tknow the answers, and to say, you know what, I don’t know, let melook that up for you. Thank you so so muchfor being here today. I really appreciateit so much and I’m going to stick around and answer questions if anyone has more. If you didn’t geta book marker or a card or you want to… If you want to getin touch with me, the contact form at my website, it’s just my email, go straight to my email boxand I’ll be ha… And for those of you who want a spouse to sortof hear some of this, because that’s a questionI get a lot too, I will be speakingon Mercer Island tomorrow night atthe Mercer Island High School and it’s open to the public.Unfortunately, the talkI’m giving tonight is not, but the one on Mercer Island tomorrow is open to the public, and everyone is welcome. >> Thank you. >> Thank you very very much. Thank you..

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